Well damn me for not getting to the last of the Strange Horizons releases last month. But it was a short month! And as there was only a poem and a nonfiction piece I thought I could just roll over the two weeks into one post (don't hate me). So here we are, with a larger review for Strange Horizons than normal, but that's okay, right? Hopefully so!
"Even the Mountains Are Not Forever" by Laurie Tom (3440 words)
This one's a nice story about a people who have traveled to a new world and whose spiritual leader, the Kunchen, frequently enters into cryogenic in order to seem immortal. For the current Kunchen, who is aging, it is time to select a successor, a rather tricky thing given that very few know that the Kunchen is not immortal. Looking for someone who can handle the loneliness of the job, can handle watching everyone around her die, the Kunchen finds a girl who she think will work, but the girl refuses, and instead finds a different way to pass on knowledge, to make it so that the knowledge of previous generations is not lost. It's a good call for the generational passing of knowledge, and also a push away from the importance of one person to personify the past. The setting is interesting and the story itself sweet. It's a pleasant read, and tends to keep things rather simple, but still has enough to it to be worth a look.
"Hypnotizing Pendulum" by Justin Peter Rubenis
This poem has a nice sense of movement and style, the way it draws together its images of the pendulum, the snakes and ladders to actually riding snakes to riding the worms in Dune. It's a short poem, with lines that go from long to short then work back again, in my mind mimicking the swing of the pendulum. Also drawn into that idea, the hypnotizing effect, is how the imagery moves in a sort of stream of conscious rush, the way it seems almost dreamlike. And, at least to me, it seems to be drawing the idea of Dune to the idea of hypnosis, perhaps to try and make the claim that science fiction or fantastical fiction in general is hypnotic, that it does something to the mind and eyes, that it transmutes and brings the reader away somewhere else entirely. At least, that's how I'm reading it. A nice little poem.
"Four" by John W. Sexton
This one is a little more sinister, a little more unsettling of a poem, about a strange creature that births its young in the belly of a fish. This creature, this threadcat, is the top predator of its ecosystem, and so it is the most important thing according to the poem. It has the evolutionary advantage, and "everything begins and ends with them." The imagery is stark and cool, bringing to mind a number of strange creatures that exist here on Earth that have developed similar ways to help their own survival. Buried in this, though, I feel is also something of a comment on humanity. The way we have developed into the top creature, the way the world begins and ends with us. It's a subtle thing, and probably I have to think about this poem more, think about the number four and what more it might mean. But overall I think that it does a great job showing this place and these creatures. Also, I kind of want a threadcat. It sounds adorable. But that aside, the poem is solid and well done, a fairly even column of text that keeps things grounded and centered on the scene and the players. Effective work.
"Gladiatorial Combat in The Hunger Games" by Juliette Harrisson
An interesting look at the use of gladiators and combat not just in The Hunger Games but in popular culture in general. Personally, the movie Gladiator has been one of my favorites for a long time, so I find the run down of points and the conclusions are pretty solid. I do think that this sprouts from that vast simplification of Roman culture and, further, the moral superiority of Rome that we have largely inherited probably because of Christianity. We don't seem to have the same complex with races, for example, though to my understanding it was a much more popular and often bloody affair. I think a lot of what goes on about the gladiatorial system and how we view Rome in general is colored by Christianity and the fact that Christianity has stuck around and Rome is in securely in the past to be made to seem a fallen and decadent waste. But a good article.
"Communities: Adventures in Anthology Curation" by Renay
This is a rather earnest look at someone's first experience with working as an editor on an anthology, something that I don't have really any experience with either. I mean, I worked on literary magazines, and even running one, but it was small and university-based and perhaps because of the make-up of the staff and the university as a whole we never had any real issues with male to female submissions. We were, however, incredibly white. And at the time I didn't think about that. The university, after all, was incredibly white. But this article brings up a lot that's worth thinking about, both for those entering into the field of editing and curating and for those who want to submit to anthologies, who want to participate. There's a lot of insights here, and I can't fully imagine how difficult it must be to work on a more professional project like that and the responsibility that one would feel to doing it right. It's...well, it shows how hard it is and how much people need to think about what they're doing and not just let submissions fall as they may. Overcoming institutional and societal oppression is not something that's easy. It takes work, and I'm glad there are people out there doing the work that needs doing.
"Nimoy and Spock: Reflections and Farewells" by lots of people
There have been a lot of Nimoy remembrance posts and this one is long and heartfelt, bringing in a lot of people to speak to just what Nimoy and Spock meant to them. Now I didn't grow up with Spock. I found the original Star Trek later, in college, and was always most drawn to Spock. Who isn't? And the commentary on the importance of Spock is excellent here and I can't help but getting a bit emotional reading it all. Of course, for me, my first exposure to Leonard Nimoy came in a different form, in the cartoon adaptation of The Halloween Tree. Nimoy played Moundshroud, the weird death-analogy that brings the children along on their journey through time. For some reason that cartoon hit me pretty hard. Which is weird because it's not the best thing ever. I mean, it was adapted by Bradbury himself, and Bradbury is the narrator, but even so the animation isn't the best and the acting is...well, for whatever reason that project staid with me. And later on I watched Star Trek, I read some of Nimoy poetry (which was...well, it was earnest), and I've seen some of his photography (which is quite good). Anyway, that got all tangent-y. The tribute is good and offers a whole lot of voices mourning a great man.
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